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Rangers’ rally beats Battalion

KITCHENER, Ont. — The Kitchener Rangers scored four straight third-period goals to erase a three-goal deficit and defeat the North Bay Battalion 6-5 Friday night in the Ontario Hockey League exhibition opener for both teams.

Joseph Serpa and Riley Damiani each scored one goal and added an assist for Kitchener, which got its other goals from Ryan Stepien, Jonathan Yantsis, Greg Meireles and Reid Valade. Goaltender Luke Richardson made 15 saves on the first day of the four-team Preseason Showcase.

Rookie Alex Christopoulos had one goal and one assist for North Bay, while Brandon Coe, Brad Chenier, Harrison Caines and Mat Hardwick also scored. Liam Arnsby provided two assists as goaltender Joe Vrbetic, who also had an assist, faced 61 shots.

The Battalion meets the Peterborough Petes at 2 p.m. Saturday before playing the Saginaw Spirit at 11 a.m. Sunday.

Hardwick scored on the power play at 5:14 of the final period to post the Troops to a 5-2 lead before the Rangers rallied.

Yantsis sparked the comeback with the redirection of a Damiani shot with the man advantage at 8:57, and Meireles tipped a screened left-point drive from Ville Ottavainan just 14 seconds later to make it 5-4.

Damiani struck shorthanded at 12:40, racing down the left wing to beat Vrbetic from the circle before Valade collected the winner at 14:38 on a three-on-two attack as Isaac Langdon and Justin MacPherson drew assists.

Coe connected on the power play at 1:43 of the second period to give the Battalion a 2-1 lead, snapping the puck past Richardson from the left-wing circle.

Serpa scored unassisted at 3:05, poking the rubber home from a scrum in front of Vrbetic after an initial left-point drive, but Chenier put North Bay back in front 10 seconds later on a snap shot off a rush from Arnsby and Christopoulos. Arnsby was the Battalion’s first-round pick in the OHL Priority Selection last June from the Don Mills Flyers minor midgets, where he was a teammate of Christopoulos, a third-round choice.

With the teams skating four a side, Caines connected unassisted at 12:50, ripping a shot from the top of the right circle.

Stepien opened the scoring at 7:17 of the first period off a two-on-one rush against Ty Hollett. Stepien one-timed a cross-ice pass from Serpa on the right wing, with Simon Motew drawing the other assist.

Christopoulos replied at 12:20, chipping home an Arnsby feed off a two-on-one rush from the lip of the crease. Vrbetic was credited with the second assist.

Assistant coaches Adam Dennis and Scott Wray ran the North Bay bench while head coach Stan Butler watched from a suite.

Defencemen Ryan Thompson and Hollett signed standard player’s agreements including education packages with the Battalion to participate in play this weekend, although Thompson has a wrist injury incurred in training camp.

Thompson, who turns 17 on Oct. 10, was a first-round pick in the OHL Under-18 Priority Selection in June from the Toronto Marlboros midgets. Hollett, 16 since Tuesday, was a fourth-rounder in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection from the Navan Grads under-18s.

BATTALION BULLETS: The showcase tournament, in its second year, is in support of the Children’s Wish Foundation. The Battalion faced Kitchener, Saginaw and the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in the inaugural event … Opening line combinations included Cameron Peters centring left winger Niki Korpialho and right winger Mitchell Russell, Arnsby centring left winger Chenier and right winger Christopoulos and Kyle Jackson pivoting left winger Caines and right winger Coe. Josh Currie centred left winger David Campbell and right winger Hardwick … Defence pairings were Pacey Schlueting with James Mayotte, Nick King with Paul Christopoulos and Simon Rose alongside Hollett … Korpialho, Arnsby, Currie, Campbell, Mayotte, Hollett and both Christopoulos twins made their OHL debuts … Christian Purboo backed up Vrbetic … The Battalion was without Thompson, Kurtis Evans, Patrick Brown, Matthew Struthers, Mason Primeau, Braden Henderson, Luke Moncada and Christian Cicigoi … Chenier wore the captain’s ‘C’ with King and Rose serving as the alternates … The Troops traveled to Kitchener on Thursday after a morning practice at Memorial Gardens … North Bay went 2-for-6 on the power play. Kitchener was 1-for-4.

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